Travelling by bus can really give you a whole other perspective on a country. It broadens your view beyond just the city, the airports and the hotel rooms you frequent. I hadn’t thought much about travelling by bus in Malaysia, however Karine had put the idea forward when we were discussing going from Penang to Lumut to catch up with her friend Marie.
Leaving Penang was a wonderful travel experience. We caught a big ferry from Penang Bay to Butterworth on the mainland, this was free by the way. Then a free shuttle bus from the ferry terminal to the bus terminal where we picked up our bus tickets (pre-booked online , of course).
We had to wait for an hour in the sweltering heat before the bus left but its all part of the experience.
Once the bus doors opened we decided we should board. The air-con was blasting arctic air across everyones faces as they sat in their pre-selected seats. We chose the front seats on the left thinking it would be a great vantage point to see what was on offer on the roadside during our three-hour journey. As the passengers embarked I noticed we were very few in total and we were on a beautiful 44 seat coach.
As most of the coaches are owned by Indian Companies you can only imagine the decor. There were crushed velvet curtains with tassels all along what looked like old cinema scroll curtain rails. There were matching seat materials and carpet as well. All very tacky, yet supremely comfortable. Given our tickets cost us the equivalent of $24 AUD in total I thought yet again “the experience”.
There was scattered with buildings on the single lane highway heading south-west. I thought they were just sheds but figured out very quickly they were restaurants, kiosks and other businesses. I was a little shocked at the primitive nature of the villages in the countryside as we travelled through. Penang was a little bit of a culture shock but this was different. This was between Penang and the villages in Africa I had driven through in October 2015.
There were palm plantations everywhere as far as the eye could see. It reminded me of our pine tree and sugar cane plantations back home in Oz. I don’t know what I was expecting to see but I was very much getting an education about rural Malaysia and fast. We stopped in a couple of places to pick up and drop off passengers. I would search for food that wasn’t dosed with sugar and fail miserably.
The vehicles on the road that we would pass wouldn’t be allowed to be started let alone driven at home and they would only just be useful on a farm. I found this amazing. The bus driver would drive in the middle of the road vying for position to prepare to pass whatever moving tragedy was in his way from getting us there on time. This was super entertaining to watch and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Witnessing this was the best part as like all the passengers on board, my life teetered in the balance of the drivers ability and his understanding of the road rules according to the laws of (distance + mass + velocity = tragedy). It was astounding really, but the exposure to the culture was well worth it.
After our stay in Lumut we caught the bus down to Kuala Lumpur. On the way we experienced a similar series of events and some even more entertaining antics from not only our own driver but other drivers as well.
Try the bus sometime………it’ll give you clarity………about how valuable your life is 🙂